Best Plants to Attract Butterflies for UK Gardens 

By  Enda

In this article we want to inform you about the best plants to attract butterflies into your garden. This is often referred to as "butterfly gardening." Quite simply, this is the art of growing certain types of flowers and plants that will attract these colourful creatures to your garden.

People love these most beautiful creatures and children are especially fond of them. The key to growing the right plants is essentially to create a safe habitat for them. A quick word of caution though, before you start on your venture. If you happen to own a cat, then you should rethink your plans. Cats are attracted to these simply because of their bright colours, and movements. It would be a shame to attract these lovely insects to their death.

Garden Size and Design for Butterfly Attraction

The size of your garden does not matter a great deal. It is really the types of flowers and plants you want to grow, that is the key thing to consider.You should of course pick a style of garden that appeals to you.

It is very important to find out which plants and flowers, will attract the species of butterflies. that live in your area. Different types of butterfly appear at different times of the year. You can usually find this information in your local library.

As a general rule though you will need water of some kind. Birdbaths look attractive and keep the butterflies up off the ground, away from stray cats or dogs. It does not have to be this fancy, as even a dish on a post or hung in a tree will do just as well.

Plants to attract butterflies

Types of UK Butterfly

In the summer months butterflies have the highest amount of varieties with up to 58 different types. In the colder months of November and December, you may find only 1-2 species such as the Red Admiral, the Brimstone and the Peacock.

Peacock Butterfly

popular UK butterfly

Mother of Pearl Butterfly

Mother of Pearl UK butterfly

Red Admiral Butterfly

Most popular UK butterfly

As things warm up through Spring though, the varieties will increase. Other species like the Comma, Tortoise Shell, Dingy Skipper, Green Hairstreak and the Speckled Wood appear.

If you would like to see all the varieties, then we recommend checking out the British Butterflies website.

Most Common Garden Butterflies

These include:

  • Large White - Cabbages (wild and cultivated varieties)
  • Peacock - Nettles
  • Red Admiral - Nettles
  • Small Tortoiseshell -Nettles
  • Small White- Cabbages (wild and cultivated varieties)

Planting Your Butterfly Garden

Now like many others we love to see these wonderful creatures in our UK gardens. In fact we do not see enough of them, and they are in decline in the UK. That said, we gardeners also need to consider our colour coordination as well. That is important for good garden design.

The colours you choose for your flowerbeds are important to achieve good design. Butterflies do not care about your choice of colour. You want to avoid a mixture of unrelated colours, plant sizes and textures.

Generally speaking butterflies are attracted to those flowers that have nectar rather than pollen. In the ideal world warm, sunny and sheltered spots in your garden are best. Be sure that your garden is in a location that provides at least six hours of sunlight per day. Butterflies are cold-blooded creatures and therefore do better where they are warm and sheltered.

Try to avoid areas in your garden where there is a lot of wind. Butterflies do not like the wind at all due to their very light weight. You can plant tall shrubs and other plants in order to create a wind break, but a location that avoids heavy winds is even better.

Ideally a butterfly garden placed on the sunny side of your home with good windbreaks on both the west and east sides is best. You will know best where the prevailing winds come from in your area. Try and locate your garden close to a window so you can view the butterflies from indoors.

Those types of plants that butterflies like include honeysuckle, milkweed, and summer lilac. They also like lilies and lavender. Butterflies are also attracted to wild grasses, nettles and thistles. Now although we may not like these in our garden, we can grow plants that are similar in nature.

plant honeysuckle for butterflies

Butterflies are attracted to flowers that have nectar rather than pollen. These include honeysuckle, milkweed, summer lilac, Valerian, daisies, Yellow Sage, day lilies and lavender. They also like Buddleia, Lilac, Ice Plant, Marjoram, and Michaelmas Daisies. In the autumn, flowering Ivy may be covered in Red Admiral butterflies.

Planning Your Butterfly Garden

It is always a great idea to have a basic plan for your garden. Many gardeners find it helpful to draw and colour a layout of their butterfly gardening plan. That really helps you see what the finished garden will look like. This simply means doing a very basic sketch.

Remember though that the warm colours like red and orange are flashy and showy. These colours have a greater impact against a strong green background. The cooler colours such as blue and purple are soothing and toned down. They work better with a white contrast to create the look of freshness and brightness.

Butterfly Garden Kits for Kids

Insect Lore Butterfly Garden Kit

I mentioned earlier that children really do adore these most beautiful of creatures. There are quite a few gardening kits that children can use, to help create a friendly environment for butterflies. Children aged from about four and upwards can observe real caterpillars eat and grow to form their chrysalis. When that happens they then then emerge as Painted Lady butterflies.

Children will love feeding the butterflies in their included observation habitat and then releasing them into the wild. Once the butterflies emerge, children can have lots of fun feeding them and watching them eat. These kits come with a dropper for squeezing sugar water into the habitat for the butterflies to drink.

butterfly kits for kids

Click Here to See Butterfly Kits for Kids at Amazon UK

As we have mentioned earlier, it is recommended that flowers be placed in the habitat for the butterflies to rest on while they enjoy their meals. Kids will delight in observing the butterflies unfurl their proboscises to suck up the sugar water.


I am someone who enjoys a little gardening. Now I am not someone who spend hours in the garden, but I do like both my front and back gardens to look really nice. Well kept lawns, neatly trimmed hedges, and borders filled with plants, make a huge difference, to how your property looks.

Enda McLarnon

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}